Dishonored can be completed without killing anyone, executive producer Julien Roby explained to me as I killed an innocent partygoer. I wouldn’t know firsthand, as my first instinct playing through Dishonored was to murder everyone.
As I would soon learn, this cold-blooded approach is a recipe for disaster. Nevertheless, I made it further than most employing such ambitious tactics, and only fell at the final hurdle when I got caught up in an untimely pistol duel with a 19th century Lord, and dishonourably turned and shot midway through the infamous countdown, causing a bit of a ruckus; but wouldn’t you totally do that? That was an optional task that resulted in my sudden death just before I could escape the level.
My second attempt at the same scenario was far more successful, and after just a few false starts, I only had to murder about ten guards to officially make it through to the end. Not bad, but there’s still work to be done.
Dishonored allows you to play on your own terms, rather than insist you abide by its own.
The mission tasks Corvo, our silent protagonist, with infiltrating a high-society masquerade party, acquiring the target to assassinate and sneaking out to the exit point without being caught. How that is achieved is up to the player. With abilities such as teleportation, possession of any living creature, stopping time and commanding a relentless army of rats at your disposal, imagination is key.
The party in-question was hosted by a Lady Boyle, whom doubled as the target of my supernatural assassination, but before she could be eliminated, Corvo had to first determine which of the three Lady Boyles in attendance was the marked woman. Killing one of her masked sisters would have been frowned upon. But first, he had to crash the soiree.
During my more covert run, I possessed the body of a fish and swam beneath the Boyle Mansion to sneak into the party through the basement, but not before I was swarmed and eaten alive by some furious rats. Alternatively, you could get yourself an invite, or sneak past the guards and pose as a registered guest.
The mission itself plays out much the same. On my first attempt, I ran in guns and superpowers blazing murdering everyone, Lady Boyle included, after I determined her identity from snooping around the restricted -- and well guarded -- areas of the classiest mansion in all of Dunwall. A more subtle approach would have been to coerce information out of the partygoers and lead the doomed Lady into the basement, using the possession technique, to knock her unconscious away from the guests and help her admirer facilitate her escape into hiding.
After a lifetime of being groomed to follow linear paths to complete a set objective in a specific way, Dishonored opens the doors of creativity. Whilst stealth is the favourable option, Arkane Studios consciously crafted a game that doesn’t push the player to use aggressive or sneaky tactics. They can employ either, and anything in-between on the cosmic spectrum.
Choice and morality mean something. We’re yet to see how this fits into the greater scheme of things, but at the very least, being a sleek silent assassination will yield varying results in contrast to becoming a ruthless killer leaving bodies all over the place.
Dishonored allows you to play on your own terms, rather than insist you abide by its own. I’m forever attempting things clearly never envisioned by the developer in the world of video game and it normally resolves in nothing doing; if it isn't the ideal way to do something, it can't be done.
Dishonored opens a realm of new possibilities. Everything I tried was attainable. I could short-teleport to perilous ledges, and you can possess someone mid-jump just to break your fall. None of these tactics are necessary or even the best option, but they are possible. That’s why Dishonored is so intriguing, you’re not consigned to one set of right and wrong -- and you play as a totally badass supernatural assassin.
By Ben Salter
Another Take: I challenge you to a duel
Watching Ben beside me take the direct 'kill everything in sight route', I immediately set off to explore the parts of the city off the beaten path.
Jumping into the water, I stealthily proceeded to go through the abandoned apartments rather than walk through the main street and face the wrath of the guards and tallboys, the latter heavily armoured enemies on tall mechanical legs. Instead of facing human enemies, I found myself ambushed by Weepers, the game's plagued infected forgotten citizens, who scared the utter crap out of me as they cried blood out of their eyes and clawed at me for more. The Weepers forced me upstairs, and I used Dark Vision to see through the rooms for more danger and used Blink to teleport away from the hordes faster.
I eventually made it to the dinner party, but not before getting distracted with the same duel outside of the estate. However, unlike Ben, I spent a good half an hour getting distracted with the many ways to tackle the situation. Like Ben, I initially cheated and at 2 seconds I dishonourably shot the Lord, and faced the consequences of his two peers and five heavily armed guards stabbing me to death.
Trying again, I used slow time and sliced the Lord’s neck open before he could even turn. However, the power faded off before I managed to make it back to my side of the field, and the guards cursed me for the abnormal magic they just witnessed before shooting me to death. After several more attempts, I finally decided to kill him properly through the duel... only to massacre the entire estate’s garrison anyway with well-placed crossbows to the knee and then one more, each, to the head, impaling some of their skulls to the cold ground.
Dishonored is truly a remarkable, incredibly dynamic experience. The range of choices and approaches you can take to the situations and levels and the detail in the story and characters makes this a game to be watched for FPS, stealth, and action fans everywhere.
By Nathan Misa
Dishonored will be released in Australia on October 11 for PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC.